Learning to expect the unexpected has become the norm for many small businesses and sole traders over recent years. However, the arrival of Omicron tested even the most adaptable. Through these particularly turbulent periods, leaning on your accountant or bookkeeper for support is always a good idea. But sometimes, identifying where you need immediate help (and implementing longer-term solutions to ongoing challenges) isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
Whether you’ve been working with your advisor for 10 minutes or 10 years, there are several things you can do to dive deeper into the immediate and continued support you’re looking for. But if you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. We’ve listed some tips below to help you best work with your advisor through the highs and the lows.
Pick up the phone
Through challenging and uncertain times, the best thing you can do is pick up the phone and talk to your accountant or bookkeeper. Every business and its pressure points are different. As a result, an advisor can only help you if they understand your unique situation. Don’t be afraid to explain how you’re feeling or what’s keeping you awake at night. The more you share, the better.
Remember, advisors are there to offer advice
More often than not, advisors will offer all kinds of services beyond basic bookkeeping or accounting. Part of their role is to articulate the value of these additional offerings and help you implement fixes or processes that will make your business more efficient (although, this can sometimes come at an additional cost).
It’s important to remember that a trusted advisor won’t endorse something unless they truly believe it will help you. Keep an open mind and explore the options presented to you. You might even uncover support you didn’t know you needed.
Work together to understand your pressure points
Since the pandemic’s arrival, many small businesses have been in survival mode. And with that, looking at short-term solutions to deal with pressure points (like recurring cash flow challenges or a lack of structure around budgets) – rather than implementing long-term fixes – has become the default mechanism. But now, we’re starting to see some easing of restrictions (albeit with continued bumps along the way).
This means that many business owners are in a position to start fixing the cracks in their armour – both pre-existing ones and those that have formed due to the pandemic. So if you feel ready, start a conversation with your advisor about the things that have caused you the most stress within your business over recent years. They can help you find solutions and – most importantly – build strong foundations for the future.
Leverage their time wisely
To make sure you get the most out of your advisor’s time (and yours), consider where your investment is being spent. For example, your accountant or bookkeeper could be dedicating hours every week to reconciling accounts, when instead, helping you implement a digitalisation strategy to automate basic admin could be a smarter solution.
Ask how you can support them so that they can better support you. This could mean having an honest conversation about what tasks your advisor spends most of their time on. If admin is a big focus, ask if they can teach you some basics so you can share the load. They’re often more than happy to do this because it means they can focus on developing other areas of your business that might benefit from more attention.
Tap into their resources and networks
Accountants and bookkeepers are a wealth of knowledge – not only from a financial perspective but also from an operational one. Many advisors are tuned into wider business networks, meaning they can help you make connections with potential hires, mentors, or even support groups. What’s more, they have access to all kinds of resources designed to help small businesses thrive. So what’s the best way to tap into this valuable expertise? By starting a conversation.
Invest in your relationship
We’ve talked about the importance of having open and frequent conversations with your advisor to help build a deep understanding of your business. But the intention is also to form a relationship – one that’s founded on mutual respect and trust.
The more comfortable you are with your accountant or bookkeeper, the more likely it is that you’ll have honest and productive conversations that leave you feeling clearer about where you are and where you want to go. So if you don’t already have a regular meeting time set up, ask for one. This could be a monthly phone or video call, or a lunch at a local cafe – whatever will help you keep the lines of communication open.
Like any solid relationship, the one you have with your accountant or bookkeeper must be nurtured in order to develop. And now is as good a time as any to build or reinforce that bond.
To search for an accountant, bookkeeper, BAS or tax agent, visit the Xero Advisor Directory.